Monday, December 3, 2018

Jordan: Petra

We came down to the Petra car-park just before 8:00am where we easily found a spot for the car. Even though there are thousands of visitors each day, most of them arrive by the bus-load, so parking isn’t a major problem.

Petra is an archaeological city in southern Jordan.  It was a trading hub and probably settle in the 4th century BC.  It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage"  It went into decline after the Roman empire and was largely abandoned until 'rediscovered' by a Swiss explorer in 1812

We started walking the 1.2km route to the Siq and the Treasury. We didn’t choose to ride a donkey or a horse, even though we were asked every 10 metres for the 1st few minutes. Before the Siq there is a separate area or ‘animal lane’ but once in the narrow confines of Siq canyon you have to be alert for the sound of hooves or carts as their handlers race through, in most cases with little regard for pedestrians
The Siq is a lovely pile of rocks. Bending and edges softened the rocks are unique. And it was surprisingly long. Andrew rightly pointed out that there was a subtle incline which would be an upward trudge on the way out.

Eventually we got to the point where you get your 1st partial glimpse of the iconic Treasury. And then you emerge into the open area in front of the stunning building carved into the rocks. And then you start to turn down people trying to sell you trinkets, postcards and camel rides. Again and again.
We headed off the see the area outside the Treasury. The Petra complex is huge and some people visit over 3 days, while others arrive on a bus go to the Treasury and then return to the bus. Everywhere you look there are carvings, or caves, buildings, or other signs of human occupation. That description makes it sound like you are walking in a city, but these are hugely spread-out but visible.

Our plan was to get the Monastery done in the morning while we were fresh. 800 steps and 50 minutes later we were no longer fresh, but we made it! At the bottom donkey handlers offered rides telling us it was 20 minutes by donkey or 2 hours and very hard without. We knew it would take less than an hour and were expecting to exert ourselves – so we kept walking and climbing. Donkeys barrel up the track and you need to kept out of their way. On the way down Andrew got brushed by donkey when its rider couldn't control what she doing and he was over to one side.
We climbed and climbed while the sun shone. We admired the view many times also catching our breathes and keeping water intake up. We knew we were nearly there but needed a rest so we sat on a side wall. There were 2 tourists and their guide coming down and the guide came over said hello to us. We said hello to the nice man. He said you don’t recognise me do you? And we politely said, no – because we had been in the country 2 days and didn’t know anyone. Ah, he said, but you are staying in my house J It was our hosts husband whim we had met very briefly the night before. He said you should keep going you are 2 minutes from the rest area. And he was right, we could have been sitting on a couch 2 minutes further on drinking coffee or juice. So when we got to the monastery we proceeded to sit some more, but had the foresaid coffee and juice.

We sat and faced the Monastery, another cave building. It was possibly more atmospheric because 1) we had sweated our up and we appreciated the view as a result of the effort and 2) there were only 10’s of people compared with hundreds of people at the Treasury.
Eventually rested and watered we started back down the stairs. The donkeys looked mighty dangerous on the downward journey with their riders leaning on all sorts of angles defying gravity while the donkeys stepped delicately down, looking much less surefooted. I heartedly agreed with Andrew when he said “You would never get me on MONKEY going down” although I substituted Donkey for Monkey from his impassioned speech. Neither would I ride a donkey down.

We were carrying a packed lunch and Andrew spotted an area in he shade down a side valley. There were a couple of groups of 2 people there when we arrived and then we had the whole area to ourselves for about 20 minutes while we ate Pita sandwiches, cakes, chippies and an apple. Meanwhile less than 10 meters away we could see the donkeys and people making their way up and down the stairs.
Indiana Jackson and his side-kick

After lunch we meandered back through the complex checking out the things we had missed on the way in.  On exiting we went to the Cave bar where we had a very well deserved beer.  18km and 49 flights of stairs for the day justified the exorbitant price of a beer at  USD $11 or $15 NZD.  Jordan has a very high tax/service charge on alcohol.

The day at Petra was hard work, but very much worth it


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